Brand identity is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in the hospitality industry, but it’s also one of the areas in which many venues seem to be most challenged.
Your brand identity is basically an overview of how your venue is to be perceived by the customer.
The chosen logo, typeface, colour palette and company name – as well as the less-obvious aspects, such as company values and tone of voice – all combine to form a brand’s identity. And it’s one of the most important things to get right in just about any business.
When executed correctly, a strong, consistent brand identity will act as your license to build rapport and foster trust with customers. As these positive effects filter through, you will also begin to see a net positive influence on your profit margins.
Here are the four critical steps to take in honing your hospitality business’s brand identity.
Every business has a target audience.
And the first thing to do when marketing any business is to first identify and then define who it is that your offering most appeals to.
Think of factors like the average age of your customer, their likes, their dislikes, where they live and even their lifestyle choices.
Ensuring that your overarching brand identity is relevant for these customers will help ensure that the right type of person is being attracted to your business.
When developing brand voices, a great way to start is to try and envision your venue as a person.
How old is that person? Where do they live? What do they do for fun? Who are their friends? How do other people see them?
Once you can visualise your venue, you can then start to define personality traits and work out how your venue should ‘speak’ to customers.
A great example of this can be seen with the restaurant, Madame Shanghai, in Sydney. When revamping their brand guide, Lotus Dining Group decided to attach specific personalities to each of their venues.
“We wanted Madame Shanghai to evoke feelings of mystery and intrigue, but also to feel warm and welcoming,” said Simon Barbato, Director of Operations at Lotus Dining.
“Madame Shanghai has taken on the personality of a great-aunt. She is mysterious, classy, elegant and refined, but also warm and generous.
Barbato’s team now has a comprehensive, detailed description of this ‘aunt’, so that anyone in marketing can access her ‘voice’ when creating content.
“This really helps us when we write content for social media or for our events,” said Barbato.
It is essential to make sure your venue personality fits in with the target audience you have defined.
For example, if your customers are usually aged 55-plus, you’d avoid using slang terms that are only familiar for the ‘Instagram generation’.
On the flip side, if your average customer is aged between 20 and 40, you might want to make your tone more casual and conversational, mirroring the demographic trends of that generation.
By appealing to the right consumer, you’ll enhance your ability to generate repeat business and more meaningful customer connections.
Your hospitality experience should match your brand’s identity.
This is essential in developing a strong connection with your consumer.
This applies to things like your table dressings, décor and lighting, and it also applies to how your staff deal with customers.
Once you understand who your venue is and the type of people it appeals to, you then need to figure out how staff should behave to best represent your brand.
A great way to break this down is by describing the ideal customer experience – from the moment they walk into your venue until the moment they leave. This will include what the customer sees and eats, but it should also include all other details of their experience.
Once you can visualise the customer’s experience, break down the parts of that experience that relate to your staff.
How do staff greet customers? In what way do they take orders or deliver the food? How do they interact with the customer at different parts of the dining experience? What style of language do they use? Are they casual or more professional in nature?
These experience factors can strengthen or weaken your overall brand identity, so it’s worthwhile taking the effort to get it right.
Once you have defined your brand and understand what is required to keep your identity consistent, it’s important to keep listening to your venue.
Keep an eye on what is working with customers and listen to staff if they offer feedback on their day-to-day experiences.
In the hospitality industry, having a good menu, breathtaking location or a killer cocktail list is a good start, but it is essential to remember that having a solid brand identity is what strengthens your connection with customers in the long term. And that, in turn, will increase your profit margins.